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Last Great Time War
Time War.JPG
The end of the Last Great Time War
Date Throughout time
Location Time Vortex
Gates of Elysium
Nestene protein planets
Result Mutual destruction of Time Lord/Dalek forces
Destruction of Nestene protein planets
The Eternals flee the universe forever
Time Lords Dalek Empire
Time Lord Council
Eighth Doctor
Dalek Emperor
Cult of Skaro
Supreme Dalek
Casualties and losses
Time Lords
10,000,000 Dalek ships

The Time War is an event referred to on several occasions in the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who, since its return to television in 2005. The conflict was between the Time Lords and the Daleks, resulting in their mutual destruction, which the series suggests was caused by the Doctor himself.[1] The Doctor also referred to this conflict as "the last great Time War," implying that there had been others, but it is also implied in various media that all traces of the several earlier Time Wars have been removed from history. One such war is mentioned in the 1995 Virgin New Adventures novel Sky Pirates! by Dave Stone. Lasting thirty thousand years, it is fought between the Time Lords and other races that are developing time travel. The Time Lords destroy one such race, the Charon, before they even exist.[2] This war takes place a generation after the time of Rassilon, the founder of Time Lord society.

While often alluded to, the events and progression of the Last Great Time War have never been fully explained. Short comments in various episodes act as hints, but the war was not thoroughly talked about until "The Sound of Drums". The second part of the episode The End of Time shows the Time Lord Council on the final day of the Time War, discussing the imminent destruction of Gallifrey and the Daleks by the Doctor. Their final strategy for survival is the destruction of all time and creation itself, and their transformation into pure consciousness; it was this strategy that the Doctor sought to avoid by ending the Time War as he did.[3]


The Last Great Time War

The last great Time War is first alluded to in the first episode of the 2005 series, "Rose". There, the Ninth Doctor explains to his companion, Rose Tyler, that the reason behind the Nestene Consciousness' invasion of Earth was because its food planets were destroyed in "the war". Later in the episode, the Doctor states that he fought in the war, but he was unable to save the Nestenes' planet or any other.

In the following episode, "The End of the World" (2005) set five billion years in the future, Jabe of the Forest of Cheem expresses amazement that the Doctor, a Time Lord, still exists, implying that the war had consequences up and down history. At the end of the episode, the Doctor confesses to Rose that the War had destroyed his home planet, leaving him the only surviving Time Lord (as far as he knew at the time).

In "The Unquiet Dead" (2005) the Doctor encounters the ghostly Gelth, aliens from another dimension, whose bodies had been destroyed by the war. The Gelth informed the Doctor that "the Time War raged, invisible to lower species but devastating to higher forms". In "Dalek" (2005), it is revealed that the Time Lords' adversaries in the war were the Daleks. The Doctor claims responsibility for the destruction of ten million Dalek ships, but also admits that the Time Lords "burned" with them. What actually started the war was not stated, but executive producer Russell T Davies commented in an episode of the documentary series Doctor Who Confidential that the origins of the war dated back to Genesis of the Daleks (1975) where the Time Lords send the Fourth Doctor into the past in an attempt to avert the Daleks' creation, or affect their development to make them less aggressive.

Further details of the War are sketchy; in "The Sound of Drums" (2007) the Master says that he was resurrected by the Time Lords because they believed he would be a "perfect warrior for a time war"; in "Doomsday" (2006) the Tenth Doctor mentions that he fought on the front lines, and was present at the Fall of Arcadia. "The Sound of Drums" states that the Doctor was responsible for destroying both the Dalek fleet and his home planet Gallifrey, after the Dalek Emperor gained control of the Cruciform. Although the single Dalek in "Dalek" had survived, the Doctor dismisses the possibility that other Time Lords may have survived as well, saying that he would have sensed it if they had. Unknown to him, the Master also survived, albeit in human form, and had fled to a time period shortly before the end of the universe in an effort to escape from the Daleks.

In the episode "The Satan Pit", the beast calls The Doctor, "the killer of his own kind." Later, in "The Sound of Drums", the Doctor admits that he personally ended the war, in an act which caused the Time Lords, the Daleks and Gallifrey to burn. It is interesting to note that his actions cause the realization of his greatest fear, as established in The Mind of Evil. In this story, he is forced to experience this fear, and afterward as he recovers from the incident, he describes it to his companion: "A whole world just disappeared in flames."

In "The Stolen Earth" the Time War was suggested to have gone on for at least a period of several years. The members of the Shadow Proclamation also express doubts as to the Doctor's identity, as the Time Lord race are "the stuff of legend."The Daleks' creator Davros was apparently destroyed in the first year of the Time War, after his command ship was destroyed at the Gates of Elysium flying into the jaws of the Nightmare Child. Davros, was later revealed to have survived.

It was revealed in The End of Time that Daleks were not the only antagonistic participants in the War, and that the Time Lords themselves grew more aggressive as the War progressed. Creations on both sides achieved the status of hellish abominations; these included the aforementioned Nightmare Child, the Skaro Degradations, The Horde of Travesties, and The Could-Have-Been King and his army of Mean-Whiles and Never-Weres as events/people within the war. However, several races with issues with the Time Lords were forbidden from participating: according to General Staal of the Sontarans, his race offered to help the Daleks but were forbidden.

It is also stated that the whole of the Time War was "time-locked", so that no time traveler could go back into it, which explains why the Doctor cannot go back in time and undo his destruction of the Time Lords within the war (although Dalek Caan is able to circumvent this, albeit accidentally, and rescue Davros, at the cost of his sanity). This was also touched upon in "The Fires of Pompeii" (see also Blinovitch Limitation Effect). Another, unnamed female Time Lord, implies that the nature of the war resulted in countless milions dying endless deaths, as time travel was used by both sides to reverse battles that caused massive fatalities on both sides.

Leadership of the Time Lords during the war remained vague, as the television series avoided mentioning the issue of whether or not the Doctor's fellow Time Lord, and former companion, Romana was President of the Time Lords during the war. Romana was last seen in the television series staying behind in a parallel dimension she and the Doctor had visited, but later novels, audio dramas, and comic series had stated that Romana had returned to her people/universe and become President of the Time Lords.

The End of Time ultimately revealed that Rassilon himself, founder of the Time Lord Society and co-creator of the civilization's time travel technology, returned from the apparent grave to lead his people as the Time Lord President. Rassilon's rule would ultimately see a fundamental change in the war and the Time Lords themselves, as Rassilon's refusal to die or allow the Time Lord civilization he created be destroyed led him to prepare a doomsday scenario (which he refers to as the "Ultimate Sanction") where he would sacrifice all of time itself; past, present, and future, as part of a genocidal scheme to destroy the Daleks (and all life in the universe) to transcend Time Lords into a non-corporeal collective consciousness that would be the only sentient form of life in existence.

This mad scheme would ultimately attract the attention of the Doctor himself, who by this point had discovered a way to end the war, implied during "The End of Time" to be something known as "the Moment". It is unclear if he could simply have used this to destroy the Daleks but chose to destroy the Time Lords as well to prevent their plan from being implemented, or if using "the Moment" would always have resulted in the destruction of both antagonists together. By this point, the entire period of war had become "time locked" (meaning no time travel was allowed in or out) due to excessive use of temporal warfare, leading to Rassilon and his fellow councillors needing to discover a method of escaping the Lock as Gallifrey was attacked by its many enemies. In the end, they manipulated the Master by retroactively planting a four note drumbeat (the rhythm of a Time Lord's heartbeats) into his brain and used a Whitepoint Star, a diamond only found on Gallifrey, to create a link between the final hours of the Time War and present-day Earth, and therefore bring Gallifrey, the Time Lords, The Daleks, The Nightmare Child, The Skaro Degradation and other host of horrors laying seige to the planet, outside the Time Lock and into the present. The Doctor also says to The Master that in the last few days of the war, it practically turned into Hell. This plan ultimately failed though as the Doctor destroyed the diamond link, sending Rassilon and the Time Lords back to their apparent doom, with the Master seemingly sacrificing his life (his true fate remains unclear) to ensure Rassilon would not be able to get revenge upon the Doctor.


Despite speculation in some fan quarters, there is no real evidence that the Time Lords were erased from history due to the Time War. Indeed, races such as the Forest of Cheem and the Krillitanes know of both the War and the Time Lords, although they describe them as extinct. Similarly, although the Daleks are described as having "vanished out of time and space" by Jack Harkness in the first series two-part finale, they are still known as a legend by the future inhabitants of Earth, (knowledge of the existence of the Daleks also being shared by certain "select", current-day humans; such as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, Sarah Jane Smith, Ian Chesterton, Barbara Wright, etc).

Why the Doctor does not encounter other time-travelling Time Lords or return to Gallifrey at a time before its destruction is not made explicit in the series although the use of the term "time locked" is suggestive. It has been stated in the past that there are locks on TARDISes that prevent travel into Gallifrey's past. The Doctor does run into a Time Lord from a different era other than his own, specifically his own fifth incarnation, in the mini-episode "Time Crash", this may indicate that the Doctor's actions in ending the war retroactively wiped all other Time Lords from existence.

The destruction of the Time Lords creates a vacuum that may have left history itself more vulnerable to change. In "The Unquiet Dead" (2005), the Doctor tells Rose that time is in flux, and history can change instantly — a more fluid definition to that which had been seen in earlier stories, which had implied that history was either immutable (The Aztecs, 1964) or capable of being changed only by very powerful beings (Pyramids of Mars, 1975; Remembrance of the Daleks, 1988). In "The Christmas Invasion", the Doctor himself significantly alters history when he indirectly brings down the government of Harriet Jones, whom he originally predicted would be elected for three terms and become the architect of Britain's "Golden Age". In the episodes "The Fires of Pompeii", "The Shakespeare Code" "The Unicorn and the Wasp" and The Waters of Mars, the Doctor mentions that some points in time, such as the destruction of Pompeii, are fixed and unchangeable, while other events can be changed.

The most dramatic demonstration of this was in "Father's Day" (2005), when Rose creates a paradox by crossing her own timestream to save her father's life just before his destined death in a traffic accident. This summons the terrifying Reapers, who descended to "sterilise the wound" in time by devouring everything in sight. The Doctor states that if the Time Lords were still around, they could have prevented or repaired the paradox.

The consequences of creating a paradox are also why the Doctor cannot go back in time and save the Time Lords. Indeed, such actions may have directly contributed to their near-extinction: "They're all gone," the Ninth Doctor laments, "and now I'm going the same way." The Master's use of the retrofitted TARDIS as a paradox machine in "The Sound of Drums" (2007) demonstrates another possible implementation of a paradox, while in the episode "Blink" (2007) Billy Shipton states that the Tenth Doctor warned him that trying to alter his own timeline after having been sent into the past would "destroy two-thirds of the universe."

In episode "School Reunion" (2006) The Doctor is tempted by the Skasis Paradigm, which would give him the ability to reorder the universe, and allow him to stop the war. In "Rise of the Cybermen" (2006) the Doctor notes that when the Time Lords were around, travel between parallel universes was less difficult, but with their demise, the paths between worlds are now closed.

Other races also suffered casualties. The Nestene consciousness lost its homeworld and its protein-source planets, and the Gelth lost their physical form and were reduced to gaseous beings.

The Time War also provides a convenient in-story explanation for any contradictions in series continuity: for example, writer Paul Cornell has suggested that Earth's destruction by an expanding sun in "The End of the World" five billion years hence, as opposed to the original depiction of its demise around the year 10,000,000 AD (The Ark, 1966) can be attributed to changes in history due to the War.[4] Writer and future Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat has gone further, arguing that "a television series which embraces both the ideas of parallel universes and the concept of changing time can't have a continuity error — it's impossible for Doctor Who to get it wrong, because we can just say 'he changed time — it's a time ripple from the Time War'."[5]


Although the Doctor initially believes himself to be the last survivor of the Time War, in "The Parting of the Ways" (2005) he discovers that, in addition to the lone Dalek in "Dalek", the Dalek Emperor itself had also survived, and had gone on to build a whole new Dalek race, using the organic material of Human cadavers by completely rewriting their DNA. The Doctor is convinced that he himself is the only surviving Time Lord, saying that he would know of any others (tapping his head: "In here") if they had. The destruction of the Emperor and his fleet at the conclusion of the 2005 series by a time vortex-augmented Rose Tyler is accompanied by her declaration that "the Time War ends."

In "Doomsday" (2006) it is revealed the elite Cult of Skaro survived by fleeing into the Void between dimensions and survived the original end of the Time War, taking with them the Genesis Ark, a Time Lord prison ship containing millions of Daleks. The new Dalek army released from the Ark is eventually sucked back into the Void, due to the actions of the Tenth Doctor, but the specially-equipped Cult of Skaro uses an "emergency temporal shift" to escape that fate. They reappear in New York, 1930 in "Daleks in Manhattan"/"Evolution of the Daleks" (2007); all but the Dalek Caan are killed in the story, leaving Caan as the last known living Dalek. Caan uses another emergency temporal shift to escape after the other three are killed. Caan returns again in the episode "The Stolen Earth" (2008).

In the 2007 episode "Gridlock" (2007) the Face of Boe says that while the Doctor is the "last of his kind," the Face of Boe says, "You are not alone". (The acronym of which is 'YANA'.) This duality is explained in "Utopia" (2007) where it is revealed that the Master had managed to survive his race's extinction by hiding in human form at the end of the universe, similar to how the Doctor had hidden from the Family of Blood in "Human Nature." The Master in his human form is known as Professor Yana, an acronym for the message the Face of Boe had given the Doctor before dying, "You are not alone". Both used a device known as the Chameleon Arch, which rewrites Time Lord DNA, changing the subject's species and giving them new memories, while storing the original biological configuration and consciousness in a fob-watch for safekeeping.

The 2008 episode "The Stolen Earth" revealed that Davros had been present in the Time War. The Doctor saw his ship destroyed. While the war was time-locked, Caan nonetheless managed to use his temporal shift to return to it and rescue Davros, at the cost of his sanity(may reffer to the powers of The Nightmmare Child as The Doctor says he saw Davros's ship fly into it's Jaws). Davros subsequently used cells from his body to create a new Dalek Empire, and maintains Caan close at his side because of the latter's apparent loyalty (before Davros' betrayal by Dalek Caan) and his delphic ability to speak only the truth about the future.

In the final scene of the 2009 Christmas special "The End of Time, Part One", it is revealed that the episode's narrator is actually the High President of the Time Lords, and that they are returning. While at first it appeared that these were Time Lords who had escaped the war a further clip on the BBC website reveals that these events are actually occurring on Gallifrey on the very last day of the Time War, which will be ended by the Doctor by use of the "Moment", attempting to influence events to escape their destruction.


Doctor Who Annual 2006

The Doctor Who Annual 2006, published by Panini in August 2005, contains an article entitled Meet the Doctor by Russell T Davies, which provides some additional background information on the Time War as seen in the television series, also mentioning in passing events depicted in the novels, audios, and comic strips.

The article describes the Time Lord policy of non-intervention, but states that on a "higher level," they protected the time vortex, and kept the peace. It further claims that two previous "Time Wars" had been fought: the first a skirmish between the Halldons (a race mentioned in the Terry Nation story We Are the Daleks from the Radio Times 10th Anniversary Special, 1973) and the Eternals (Enlightenment). The second was the brutal slaughter of the Omnicraven Uprising, with the Time Lords intervening on both occasions to settle matters.

The conflict between the Daleks and the Time Lords is described as "the Great (and final) Time War." Initial clashes included the Dalek attempt to infiltrate the High Council of the Time Lords with duplicates (Resurrection of the Daleks, 1984), and the open declaration of hostilities by one of the Dalek Puppet Emperors (possibly Davros in Remembrance of the Daleks); the Daleks claim these are merely in retaliation for the Time Lords' sending the Doctor back in time to change Dalek history in Genesis of the Daleks.

The article says that historical records are uncertain, but mentions two specific events in the lead-up to the war. The first was an attempted Dalek-Time Lord peace treaty initiated by President Romana under the Act of Master Restitution (a possible reference to the otherwise-unexplained trial of the Master on Skaro at the beginning of the BBC Doctor Who television movie, 1996). The second was the Etra Prime Incident (The Apocalypse Element), which some say "began the escalation of events." Weapons used by the Time Lords included Bowships, Black Hole Carriers and N-Forms (the last from Davies' 1996 New Adventures novel Damaged Goods), while the Daleks wielded "the full might of the Deathsmiths of Goth" (from the comic strip story Black Legacy by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, in Doctor Who Weekly #35-#38), and launched a massive fleet into the vortex (possibly in The Time of the Daleks).

The timelines of lesser races and planets shifted without the inhabitants of the worlds affected being aware of the changes in history, as they were a part of them (presumably including Humans). "Higher species" who were able to notice the changes included the Forest of Cheem, who were distraught at the bloodshed; the Nestene Consciousness, which lost all its planets, and further mutated; the Greater Animus, which died; the Eternals, who apparently fled this reality in despair, never to be seen again; and the Gelth, who were forced to take incorporeal form and hide themselves at the edge of the universe. The war lasted for years, and exactly how it ended is also not precisely known.

The article ends with a description of hieroglyphics related to the Time War, carved on a mountainside on the distant planet Crafe Tec Heydra. There, under an image of a lone survivor walking away, the message "You are not alone" has been scratched, perhaps indicating that the Doctor was not the sole survivor of the conflict.[6] This is also the same message that the Face of Boe delivers to the Doctor in "Gridlock." On Martha Jones's MySpace[7] page, it is revealed that she and the Tenth Doctor, just prior to the events of "Human Nature" (2007) visited the Eye of Orion (previously seen onscreen at the start of The Five Doctors, 1983), where a shrine to the Time War stood. This may or may not be the same place mentioned in the Doctor Who Annual.

Gallifrey audio series

Gallifrey is the umbrella title of a series of audio plays by Big Finish Productions, set on Gallifrey during Romana's tenure as President. In Gallifrey: Panacea, the final chapter of the third series, the Time Lord Irving Braxiatel speaks of "rumours out there in the big wide universe — more than rumours, in fact — that something's coming to Gallifrey, something worse than you could possibly imagine."

Because of these rumours, Braxiatel engineers the removal of the Time Lord biodata archive from Gallifrey, in order that the Time Lords might someday be restored after their planet meets its doom. Former Big Finish producer Gary Russell indicated in a forum posting on Outpost Gallifrey that this was a reference to the television series' Time War.[8]

The later Companion Chronicles audio story, The Catalyst, implies that Leela survived the Time War; she mentions that her adopted homeworld no longer exists and she ages rapidly due to the Time Lords no longer being able to keep her young.

Like all Doctor Who spin-off media, its relationship to the ongoing story of the television series is open to interpretation.

Other Time Wars in Doctor Who

Eighth Doctor Adventures

In a story arc stretching through several of the Eighth Doctor Adventures, sometime in the Doctor's future, a war is fought between the Time Lords and an unnamed Enemy, the Eighth Doctor becoming involved in the events of the war during the events of Alien Bodies, when he unintentionally becomes involved in an auction for the body of his future self due to his biodata codes being the only means of accessing dangerous Time Lord secrets, and The Taking of Planet 5, where he must stop a group of future Time Lords from releasing the monstrous Fendahl in an attempt to use it as a weapon. In this story arc, Gallifrey is also destroyed as a result of the Eighth Doctor attempting to prevent the war from beginning as the Enemy begin their first assault, believing that it would be better for the Time Lords to die now rather than experience a war that would dehumanise them to the point of becoming monsters which all evidence suggests they could not win (The Ancestor Cell, 2000). This cataclysm also creates an event horizon in time that prevents anyone from entering Gallifrey's relative past or travelling from it to the present or future. The last Eighth Doctor Adventures novel, The Gallifrey Chronicles, establishes that the Doctor has the ability to restore the planet and its inhabitants, having downloaded the contents of the Matrix into his subconscious mind in the minutes before Gallifrey's destruction, albeit at the cost of his own memories. The novel ends without revealing if he does indeed do this, although the Ninth Doctor's clear knowledge of his past suggests that he was at least able to restore his memories before his regeneration.

Series executive producer Russell T Davies wrote in Doctor Who Magazine #356 that there is no connection between the War of the books and the Time War of the television series, comparing Gallifrey being destroyed twice with Earth's two World Wars. He also said that he was "usually happy for old and new fans to invent the Complete History of the Doctor in their heads, completely free of the production team's hot and heavy hands."[9]

Despite Davies' unequivocal statement that the two wars are distinct, Lance Parkin, in his Doctor Who chronology AHistory, suggests in a speculative essay that the two destructions of Gallifrey may be the same event seen from two different perspectives, with the Eighth Doctor present twice (and both times culpable for the planet's destruction). This is supported due to the novels' destruction of Gallifrey involving an evil future version of the Eighth Doctor as the leader of the invading force, with the events leading to Gallifrey's destruction being triggered by the Doctor's attempt to prevent that future from coming to pass.[10]

Another version of the Eighth Doctor Adventures' War, referred to as the "War in Heaven," also appears in the Faction Paradox novels conceived by Lawrence Miles.

Doctor Who comic strip

In three comic strip stories written by Alan Moore and published in Doctor Who Monthly,[11] the Time Lords, assisted by The Special Executive, fight a time war early in their history against the Order of the Black Sun, based some thirty thousand years in their future.

The first strike of the war, from the Time Lords' point of view, is when a Black Sun agent travels back in time, and attacks the Time Lords just as they are about to turn the star Qqaba into a power source for their time experiments. This also causes the apparent demise of the stellar engineer Omega. The Time Lords do not know why the Black Sun (whom they had never encountered before the attack) should have wanted to strike at them, and surmise that it was for something they had yet to do.[12]

Years later, at a diplomatic conference, a representative of the Order is murdered by the Sontarans, and the murder is blamed on the Time Lords. This provides the motivation for the war's beginnings, as from the Order's point of view, the Time Lords are the ones who strike first.[13]

See also


  1. ^ In "Dalek" (2005) the Doctor claims credit for the destruction of the Dalek fleet, and adds that the Time Lords perished along with the Daleks. In "The End of the World" (2005)The Doctor says that his planet "burned" like Earth of the far future, and is "rocks and dust" as a result of the war. In "The Satan Pit" (2006) the Beast describes the Doctor as "the killer of his own kind."
  2. ^ Stone, David (1995). Sky Pirates!. Virgin Publishing Ltd. p. 39. ISBN 0-426-20446-8.  
  3. ^ "Watch: Exclusive Scene — The End of Time, Part Two". Doctor Who website. BBC. 26 December 2009. Retrieved 27 December 2009.  
  4. ^ Cornell, Paul (2007-02-10). "Canonicity in Doctor Who". Paul Cornell's House of Awkwardness. Retrieved 2008-07-22.  
  5. ^ Moffat, Steven (Panelist). (2008-07-24). Doctor Who Panel Part 5 SDCC 2008. San Diego Comic-Con 2008: YouTube. Event occurs at 6:53. Retrieved 2008-07-28.  ;
    "Moffat promises new Who monsters". BBC News. 2008-07-29. Retrieved 2008-07-29.  
  6. ^ Davies, Russell T (2005). "Meet the Doctor". The Doctor Who Annual 2006. Tunbridge Wells: Panini Books. pp. 20–21. ISBN 1-904419-73-9.  
  7. ^ - Martha Jones - 24 - Female - UK
  8. ^ Russell, Gary (2006-09-03). ""Gallifrey 3.5: Panacea" (requires free registation to view)". Outpost Gallifrey. Retrieved 2006-09-11.  
  9. ^ Davies, Russell T (25 May 2005). "The Evasion of Time". Doctor Who Magazine (356): 66–67.  
  10. ^ Parkin, Lance (2006). Additional material by Lars Pearson.. ed. AHistory: An Unauthorised History of the Doctor Who Universe. Des Moines: Mad Norwegian Press. pp. 292–293. ISBN 0-9725959-9-6.  
  11. ^ The First Great Time War at the Comic Book DB
  12. ^ Star Death, DWM #47; The 4-D War, DWM #51
  13. ^ Black Sun Rising, DWM #57


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